NRA, fighting gun laws, calls for Nutter's arrest Its lawyer said Philadelphias is a "rogue government" and all of its citizens should "buy their guns now."

Posted: April 18, 2008

Philadelphia's latest effort to curb violence through gun control was temporarily blocked by a city judge yesterday in a ruling that both sides welcomed, and that left a National Rifle Association lawyer calling for Mayor Nutter's arrest for "official oppression."

Common Pleas Court Judge Jane Cutler Greenspan granted the NRA a temporary restraining order that blocks enforcement of a package of five gun-control laws passed last week by City Council and signed by Nutter.

Greenspan stressed that she was "just trying to preserve the status quo" until an April 28 hearing on whether to issue a preliminary injunction freezing the laws longer.

She ordered both sides to submit briefs outlining their positions and the legal precedents behind them by 5 p.m. Monday.

After yesterday's 45-minute hearing, C. Scott Shields, the Media lawyer who filed the lawsuit for the NRA, fulminated for several minutes, telling reporters that Mayor Nutter and City Council were a "rogue government" for enacting laws invalidated in 1996 by the state Supreme Court.

"I'd advise every resident of Philadelphia to go out and buy their guns now," Shields said, adding that Nutter had made uncertain the future of gun ownership in the city.

Shields praised District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham's announcement Tuesday that she would not enforce the new gun laws because such prosecutions would violate Supreme Court precedent. He called on Abraham to prosecute Nutter and Council members for "official oppression," a charge usually made against police in brutality cases.

"I am not going to arrest the mayor and members of City Council," Abraham said in a statement yesterday.

City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith said, "It's unfortunate that he [Shields] doesn't have the appreciation Mayor Nutter and Council have for the seriousness of what is going on in this city."

Nutter has said passage of the gun-control laws was needed to spark public and legal debate about how to deal with the epidemic of city gun violence that last year caused 393 homicides and left 1,734 shooting victims. So far this year, Abraham told City Council on Tuesday, there have 306 shootings and 70 gun-related homicides.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Nutter has said.

Smith called Greenspan's ruling unsurprising: "We expected this was going to be a long process . . . The Supreme Court's opinion has really narrowed our options, but we hope the court recognizes that we do have options."

In 1996 in Ortiz v. Commonwealth, the state's highest court invalidated a city ordinance to regulate assault weapons, ruling that the state legislature in 1994 passed a law that specifically barred municipalities from regulating guns.

The five measures, introduced by Council members Darrell L. Clarke and Donna Reed Miller, passed unanimously April 10 and were signed by Nutter the same day.

The laws:

Permit authorities to seek a judge's order to take guns from people shown to be a risk to themselves or others.

Ban from gun ownership people who are subject to a protection-from-abuse order.

Require gun owners to report to police the loss or theft of a gun within 24 hours of discovering it.

Ban possession or sale of assault weapons or contraband firearms within city limits.

Limit firearm purchases to one a month and require buyers to obtain a police certification they have not bought another gun within the past month.

Clarke yesterday said he was glad the laws would get a "full-blown court hearing."

"At the end of the day, we will be proven right on this issue," Clarke added.

In asking Greenspan to block enforcement of the five laws, Shields said some of his clients - the suit was filed for the NRA; National Shooting Sports Foundation; Pennsylvania Association of Firearms Retailers; Colosimo's and Firing Line Inc., two city gun shops; and several individuals - would suffer immediate financial injury.

One of them, Jon Mirowitz, of Olney, already owns an assault weapon, Shields said, and it would become illegal for him to keep or sell it.

Colosimo's and Firing Line, Shields said, could lose "thousands or millions of dollars worth of dealer inventory."

Mark R. Zecca, a senior attorney with the city Law Department, argued that a temporary restraining order was not needed because it would take at least 30 days for the Police Department to draft the regulations and training programs to enforce the laws.

Greenspan finally agreed with Shields about the risk to his clients: "People need to know how to behave."

But the judge also promised the city a quick final ruling, which would enable either side to ask the state Supreme Court to affirm, reverse or rework the 1996 Ortiz decision.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or

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